Planning to stream some tunes during Thanksgiving travel? A free app from Opera might help leave a smaller hole in your data plan.
Opera Max is an Android app that compresses data before it reaches your phone or tablet. The app already reduces data from text, images, and video, and as of this week supports some streaming music services as well. So far, it works with Pandora, Slacker Radio, YouTube Music, Gaana, and Saavn, though Opera says it’s aiming to support more services in the future.
Once installed, Opera Max connects to a virtual private network on Opera’s servers, which then convert any unencrypted data to a more compressed format. In the case of music, Opera Max turns inbound MP3 and MP4 streams into the more efficient AAC+ before sending the data to the user’s device, TechCrunch reports. Opera claims that this can reduce data consumption by up to 50 percent.
The biggest limitation with Opera Max is that it can’t touch files delivered with HTTPS encryption. Spotify and Google Play Music both use HTTPS on their respective websites, so that may explain why they’re not included in Opera’s compression offering.
The amount of data used by streaming music varies by app, and it’s worth noting that the free version of Pandora uses 64 kbps AAC+ to begin with. But with a 128 kbps stream, you’d burn through 57.6 MB of data in an hour. That usage can add up quickly if you’ve got a long road trip ahead.
The impact on you at home: Opera Max isn’t really necessary for those with large (or unlimited) data plans, or for T-Mobile subscribers who have unlimited music streaming included. But if you’re trying to squeeze by on a gigabyte or two, a bit of compression could be the difference between staying under your limit or paying overage charges.